Artifact Corner: Episode 16

Hi everyone, and welcome to a special Halloween edition of our series Artifact Corner. This week and next week we will be exploring a very special place in Plattsburgh that has a connection to our museum. We will be checking out Riverside cemetery, which is the final resting place of the founding member of our family’s museum, Henry Delord.

Riverside cemetery is the final resting place of many of Plattsburgh’s most prominent founding members, and soldiers involved in the Battle of Plattsburgh. Plattsburgh was founded in 1784 when Zephaniah Platt of Poughkeepsie, NY, and two of his brothers received a state grant for 33,000 acres of land along the Saranac River. The next year, Charles Platt and a group of settlers began construction of homes. Three years later, New York State created Clinton County. In 1815, Plattsburgh was officially made a village, but it wasn’t until 1902 that Plattsburgh became a city.

So, let’s take a closer look at cemeteries. Why do we bury people after they have passed? The practice of burying people dates back as far as the middle Paleolithic period. In the Stone Age, it was common practice to bury the dead and place a large stone over the grave to mark the spot. In the Middle Ages, in Europe, the marker on the burial site was entirely dependent on your wealth. The average person would have a wooden marker, with maybe a few words carved into it. If you were wealthy you would likely have a stone marker in a prominent spot. If you were very wealthy you would have a heavily decorated headstone, or possibly a likeness of yourself atop a stone tomb.

In the 18th and early 19th Centuries most people would have a stone burial marker with their name, birth date, and the date they passed. A wealthy citizen’s stone could also contain decorative carving and sometimes a quote or poem. When we look at Henry Delord’s headstone, you can see that the decoration and lettering has deteriorated over the last 200 years. The stone says “In Memory of Henry Delord, born at Nismes France, July 15th 1764, Died March 29th 1825, Age 61 years.” There is a further inscription at the bottom that has since been obscured by soil. There appears to be some decoration at the top of the stone, and there may have been more fine detailed work when the stone was first placed, that has since been worn away. It’s difficult to tell.

Next week we will be taking a look at the difference between Colonial, Federalist, and Victorian Era decorations for head stones. If you are a fan of cemeteries, like we are, lets us know in the comments below. Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you next week.

Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

A Really Dark Alley by Loyalty Freak Music